Guns and Shows

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Watched any of the news from the Middle East lately?  It seems that everyone (that makes it in front of a camera, anyway) owns serious military gear for the offending occasion du jour.  Not only can they afford assault rifles, but they’re also equipped with full wardrobes of ready-to-war bullets.  On the one hand, it’s alarming that Islamic societies seem to sprout arsenals whenever the news finds them.  On the other, it’s sad that weapons are so visibly a part of their culture. 

In America, we’re not altogether different.  Though, we tend to keep our guns under wraps and generally refrain from firing rounds aimlessly into the air due to a well grounded sense of gravity.   

When I was growing up in South Carolina, my dad had a wall mounted rack for his double barrel, .12 gauge shotgun.  I vaguely remember him taking it go hunting once or twice, or, more specifically, cleaning it afterwards.  I hardly touched the thing, but when words came to a head with other kids in Elementary School, “my dad’s double barrel, .12 gauge shotgun” brought a formidable line of defense to my cause, even though not literally in hand.  Of course, those were the days when rifles frequently were hung visibly in the cabs of pickup trucks and kids (or at least Cub Scouts in uniform) were allowed to bring pocket knives to school.  Today, well, there’s zero tolerance for such things.

But guns were common.  All the boys in my neighborhood had BB guns, and we’d go trekking through the woods picking out random targets or lining up tin cans.  Shooting wasn’t something that we did very often, but it was an occasional and pleasant diversion from biking, skateboarding, football, fishing, flattening pennies on railroad tracks, damming a creek to form a swimming hole, building forts and whatever else we did when we were told to “go play outside” without supervision. 

Bigger kids played with guns too, and we’d occasionally collect spent shells at a public trash dumpster site where guns were shot at times when we were never present.  This short exploration was basically a contest along the lines of “Wow, look at the size of this shell.”

But it was all fun and games – and responsible.

It wasn’t until I was in High School in Virginia that a friend introduced me to a “real” gun, a Dan Wesson .357 magnum revolver.  After setting our retired French books on a limb, we took aim and blew a smallish hole through the front cover that deceptively disguised the departure of the pages behind it in a cloud of confetti.  It was a serious gun, for a serious person.  After B.B. guns and .22 rifles in Boy Scouts, this was a different experience in target shooting.

Early into my working career, I went to a Gun Show with my mentor, obviously an enthusiast.  Despite the Police Officers at the entrance and the security checks of all entering weapons (unloaded and secured from firing), I entered what was a strange and somewhat frightful world. 

There were a few collectors of antique or military guns, there were shooting enthusiasts, there were hunters (fathers with sons).  Still, there weren’t a lot of people who looked like me… knit shirt, jeans, and sensibly boring haircut.  The majority, in various forms and fashions, looked like the types of people that Dirty Harry confronted as targets.

I’ve since bought a serious gun.  Theoretically, it’s for home defense purposes.  The scenario would be this:  awaken at strange noise, identify intruder, press “Pause.”  Find the key to the trigger lock, locate the gun.  Unlock the trigger.  Find correct ammo in drawer.  Insert ammo into the magazine  and the magazine into gun.  Cycle a round into the chamber and approach to “can’t miss” range.  Hit “Play.”  Actually, shoot gun at intruder, then hit “Play.”

It’s not a game, though, a golf club or baseball bat would be more immediately helpful.  But, for me, there is a sense of peace that comes from knowing that I do have access to a gun should one be needed, never mind the target shooting.

A friend who I’ve taken to the range on several occasions decided (finally) to purchase a gun.  There are ample gun stores in Georgia, but  why go to a gun store when you can go to a place with multiple sellers in a competitive environment?  Thus, a Gun Show.  People would question the “Show” aspect must also recognize that civic centers host a variety of events, including jewelry, computer, coin and stamps, or toys, for example.  Each is followed by “Show” when advertised.  In each case, people pay for dealer tables; it’s implied that they want to sell their products.

To be fair, I’ve been to other shows over the years, usually exiting with ammunition for which any discount fails to make up for the admission price.  But that’s just the practical reason to going.  Weapons have an allure for me that I can’t quite understand.  And unlike the stores where you have to ask to hold each gun that’s displayed in a cabinet, gun shows encourage gun handling… even if they’re daisy chained together with wire.  Never been? Let’s take a peek.

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That’s part of the main floor area.  There are other dealers on the main floor and around the mezzanine of the Civic Center.  Sure, there’s some redundancy, but there’s also variety.  Hunting rifles, WWI and WWII weapons and collectibles, revolvers, semi-automatic pistols, semi-automatic rifles (many with cosmetic appurtenances that qualify as Clinton-era evil features), shotguns, body armor, ammunition, knives, knife sharpeners, reloading dies and equipment, holsters, purses with discrete built in holsters… and so on.  (Don’t forget to hover your mouse over the pictures for the inside scoop).

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Overall, I thinkIMG_1302 the caliber of the crowd has changed in recent years and definitely since my first gun show in 1988.  Is it because of a shifting societal more away from gun ownership? No.  Is the NRA dying on the vine of political incorrectness?  No.  Are there fewer… let’s see, skinheads, street thugs, rednecks, bikers (the bad kind, not the suburban mid-life crisis variety), drug runners, gangs, neo-Nazi wannabe’s or other disturbing societal fringe elements?   Don’t know, but I doubt it.

My opinion?  Guns are expensive.  Sure, you can buy less expensive guns, but, generally speaking, new pistols vary from $500 to $1,000.  Hunting rifles?  About the same.  Do any custom work for accuracy or fit, though, IMG_1304and prices increase significantly.  Assault styled weapons?  Usually $1,500 or more.  That’s a lot of disposable income in an economy that’s not yet willing to freely dispose.  But there is ample interest.  Parking lots were full, and the middle aged crowd was buying.

In any case, my friend did make a purchase, a serious weapon for a serious person.  His identification was verified and his background checked through the appropriate database.  The required paperwork was completed.  And the next day, he was to follow up with lessons in firing, handling, and care of his new possession at a local gun range… as responsible people should.

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